I think whirlwind would explain it in a word. I believe the trip was planned so it would be so. Everything had been building up to seeing Srebrenica; the graveyard, the short film and meeting the survivors. The next day felt like a whirlwind. Trying to make sense of everything we had seen the day before.
Our final day required a mammoth breakfast (we didn’t hold back). The luxury of having a totally halal all-you-can-eat for breakfast is, well… just exactly that. Needless to say we took advantage.
I think the events of the previous day took a heavy toll emotionally. I remember Munira feeling particularly fragile at breakfast as I think everything had caught up with her.
With full bellies we hopped on the coach for the second to last time. Resad accompanied us and we stopped off at the Old Town.
The view as we got off was serene.
The hills that surrounded the city felt different to the first time we saw them. Before they felt safe and protected. But after the film and everything we had heard over our time in Bosnia; it was these very hills that were the vantage point of the enemy.
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Martin Luther King Jr
As we piled off the coach, our camera man David wanted to get some final thoughts of our trip individually. As we awaited our turn to be filmed we spoke with Resad.
He said assertively:
“Some of you may not like what I am about to say…”
As we stood around him, Ulia, Munira Ambreen, Sadia and I feeling a little strange.
During the war, our mothers were the pillars of the home.
He spoke calmly but with conviction.
I remember Sadia did not take well to his implication that a woman’s place was at home. At first, none of us knew where he was going.
He spoke of the stability of a mother; and how mothers have the greatest burden but the biggest blessing as they have a bond with their children that no one else can emulate.
Quoting Our Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) “Paradise lies at the feet of a mother”.
Speaking of the hardships of the war; he noted that the women were the real victims. Most women of Srebrenica had lost their entire family; sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, nephews, uncles. Everyone and everything. Yet they still remained strong and hopeful of better days where justice would prevail and reunion with their families and with God.
Piecing together the previous four days, in that moment, Resad’s words made perfect sense. His emphasis on the burden of women should not be forgotten, unnoticed and deemed as only half the story. Women of Srebrenica are the story. The mothers of Srebrenica; are the present reality. The future of the history of Srebrenica and not repeating history, relies on the world calling their murderers to justice and learning the lessons of how humans can cause such brutality; and how to avoid this.
We took some pictures with Resad to capture his words that day. Although his words may seem controversial at first, only by seeing the resilience of one Mother of Srebrenica, Hatidza has led me to believe that women are the pillars of a family. A source of strength, comfort and example.
With our flight due to leave at 1:30pm we were aware the time was ticking. Although picking up some momentos was never the purpose of our trip, the chance to see the Old City again made us feel uneasy about missing the opportunity.
With an hour on the clock we dashed from stall to stall looking for gifts to take back for our loved ones.
We sprinted from shop to shop; losing each other in the narrow swirling alleys a good few times in the frenzy. As we ticked relatives and friends off our present list it launched panic when we had 10 minutes until we had to go back to the meeting point with the others for a quick lunch to then depart for the plane.
We wanted to offer Dhuhr Salat (the early afternoon prayer) and we remembered the Gazi Husrev Beg Mosque in the center of the Old City showed to us on the tour on Day 1.
Problem was, we had forgotten how to get there.
With what seemed like half of Sarajevo’s merchandise to hand; we sprinted (I kid you not) through the Old City with the hope to reach the mosque and not be late to get back to the others. Half panicked, half exhilarated (most of us had not properly run like this in quite a while… for me- ever) we reached the iconic fountain, which used to have freshly piped water straight from the mountains peering above. We knew we were close.
We took a turn and kept running.
We came to a dramatic stop when we found ourselves running straight in to an outside shisha lounge; and swiftly turned around and ran in the other direction!
Finally we made it to the old Mosque, Bursting with university students and tourists.
It felt good to stop, think and pray. For everything and everyone we had seen. We prayed outside and it felt serene.
The frenzy restarted. We rushed around picking up last minute things; some coffee for my dad, a pink scarf for my mum. Eventually we made it back to have lunch.
We made it to the airport with around 10 minutes until the flight was due to leave. Needless to say things were a bit stressful. In the queue to have our passports checked we had a bittersweet goodbye to Resad, our tour guide for the duration of the day and of course, took a group selfie. We stormed on to the plane, of course Sabahat went missing (thoughout the duration of our stay she had been known to sneak off to get a good photograph) and caused a slight ripple of panic. But she made it to the plane. To our relief.
After an awkward re-shuffle of seats, much to the annoyance of a passenger, we took off and left feeling like different people then when we had landed. We interviewed our camera man, David and he felt the same way.
We stopped off at Zurich and the second plane, to our delight was complimentary Swiss chocolate; Pasha (the co-ordinator of our trip) had somehow managed to get a bag full. Many jokes bounced back and forth about an incident in Tusla where a Bounty was thrown to him across the coach and one of the amigos (I won’t say who) ate it. A memory we won’t forget.
Collecting our luggage at Heathrow was bittersweet. None of us knew how to quite say goodbye to other members of the group. Although we mainly stuck to the four amigos, we had developed friendships for all those on the trip, and the experiences we had, the people we met and the things we saw together is something we will always share.
Catching a taxi back to our amigos mum’s house, felt really strange. I don’t think any of us had expected the trip to hit us as hard as it did. It was hard to articulate to anyone.
The four amigos then headed back home, the four hour journey had given us a lot to think and talk about. We were all quite sleep deprived but feared leaving one another; as no one else truly understood what we had experienced. Being together was a comfort.
We reached our local Mosque at around 1am. As we got out the car; the air was still, silent, detached. It felt really strange. Although we were happy to be home, a creeping sadness came as we knew we would be parting ways.
We must have spent at least an hour trying to say goodbye to each other. Not helped by the fact that we were really creeped out after I pointed out what looked like a face in the mosque window. Seems stupid now, but it highlighted how un-normal we felt.
We hugged four-ways and travelled to our houses. One of the amigos lived a further distance and I recall how worried we all were about them getting home safely as the roads are not well lit.
But reaching home was only the beginning. We now had to commit ourselves to preserving our memories and of those who were not given a voice to speak out against the crimes committed against their people.
Our Day 4 concludes our Bosnia trip; but not its legacy.